I’ve known about this book since it came out, but (as seems to be my pattern now) I waited until now, right before the last book in the trilogy is to be published, to read it.
In The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Avery is barely scraping by as she tries to make it through high school and her part time job. She’s determined to get to college, get a good job, and finally be comfortable. Everything changes, though, when she receives word that she’s been named in the will of Tobias T. Hawthorne. He was one of the wealthiest people in the country—a literal billionaire—and she is to inherit the bulk of the money and properties. But she has never even heard of the man. And in order to actually claim this inheritance, Avery has to live in the Hawthorne House for a year—with the remaining Hawthorne family, who wonder why they have been so unexpectedly outmaneuvered by their patriarch, and who view Avery as an interloper and, maybe, a threat to be eliminated.
I quite enjoyed this book! It feels like it’s inspired a bit by Clue, with hints of the Selection series. I think Avery makes a good protagonist—she’s intelligent and determined, and you feel sympathy for her as she finds herself thrust into this bizarre situation with people she can’t fully trust. You root for her as she seeks out answers.
The other characters, mainly the Hawthorne grandsons, are also good. Each of the four boys has a distinct personality, as do the other members of the family. I was worried initially that I wouldn’t be able to keep the family tree straight, but Barnes does a good job establishing who is who, and I was never confused. I think my favorite non-Hawthorne character was probably Oren, Avery’s bodyguard, with his stoic gruffness and occasional exasperation with Avery’s risk-taking. The man must be a supernatural being of some sort, though, considering how little sleep he gets. I hope to see more of him, and of Xander Hawthorne, who is really fun.
I wasn’t very invested in the more romantic aspects of this story, though. I can see the love triangle situation as one that will only intensify in the next two books, and that doesn’t really delight me. Neither of Avery’s love interests seem that trustworthy, which I know is partially the point—she doesn’t know who are allies or enemies in this house—but I think that’s a fairly important foundation to have in any relationship. So I personally don’t have a stake in who she ends up with.
That aside, the best part of this book was the mystery itself: why has Avery been named in the will? The clues left behind by Tobias Hawthorne are so intricate and strange, and it’s fascinating to watch them unravel. You really have to marvel at someone who can think so many steps ahead, consider all the angles, and pull off such things basically from beyond the grave. The riddles and clues found through the house and its property were really cool; you sort of feel like you’re in an escape room with Avery.
The other aspects of the mystery, which center on a death that happened on the property about a year before, were also really intriguing. It’s like there are ghosts in Hawthorne House, and it adds to the air of mystique. And several times, I was reminded a lot of the novel Rebecca, which was really fun. I don’t know if these were deliberate similarities, but I still liked noticing them.
In the end, The Inheritance Games was a great read. Compelling characters, plot, and mystery make for a fun reading experience, as you’re trying to predict what will happen next and what things mean. It’s a wonderful first book, and I’ll definitely be reading the sequel in the next few weeks to prepare for the publication of the third one at the end of August!